New MCNY exhibit highlights the Native American community in NYC

September 26, 2019

Artists from the exhibition, Women of Sweetgrass, Cedar and Sage, friends and community members outside the American Indian Community House Gallery, 1985. Photo by Jesse Cooday. Courtesy of MCNY

In honor of the 50th anniversary of New York’s American Indian Community House on the Lower East Side, the Museum of the City of New York’s newest exhibit, “Urban Indian: Native New York Now” will feature contemporary art, documentary film, and community memorabilia from Native American New Yorkers. While New York’s Mohawk community is famous for having helped build many of New York’s most iconic buildings, the Native American community in NYC is exceptionally diverse (the American Indian Community House counts 72 different tribal affiliations amongst its members.) Accordingly, the exhibit puts “shared authority, self-representation and collaboration” at its center.

Pena Bonita, Hanging Out on Iroquois and Algonquin Trails, 2015. Courtesy of MCNY

All of the pieces in the show were made by Native American New Yorkers between the 1980s and today. From works such as “Signal,” Mel Chin and G. Peter Jemison’s collaborative 1995 site-specific design for the MTA’s Broadway-Lafayette Street Station, to poet Diane Burns’ 1987 “Alphabet City Serenade,” the show is deeply connected to, and reflective of, New York City.

Jason Lujan, (Chiricahua Apache, Texas), exhibition co-curator, artist, and co-founder of Native Art Department International, explains, “When asked to co-curate this exhibition, I was determined to make this a New York City show, not an ‘Indian’ show. As such, it was our intent to create a gallery environment that mirrors what one would experience when stepping into the streets of the City: old and new; fast and slow; predictable and random, peaceful and chaotic, often all at once, everywhere.”

Signal, featuring Wampum Message of Peace by G. Peter Jemison (1997) and Mel Chin. NYCT Broadway–Lafayette Street Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Rob Wilson. Courtesy of MCNY.

The show will run at MCNY through February 15, 2020. The exhibition is part of a larger collaboration between New York’s Native American cultural institutions and MCNY. The Museum will offer related programming including family day celebrations of Native heritage, student field trips, and educator workshops. You can find more information about these, and other, public programs here.


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